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Pumpkin Karver, The (2006)

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Pumpkin Karver reviewStarring Amy Weber, Michael Zara, Minka Kelly, Terrence Evans, Mistie Adams, David Austin

Directed by Robert Mann


You wanna know where The Pumpkin Karver goes horribly awry? How about a slasher movie that introduces a whole slew of characters, most of which are totally worthless other than to be victims, but only musters two lousy kills within the film’s first hour, and the majority of those characters never even get killed? How about a slasher movie that’s set in a town named Carver, that makes pumpkin carving and talk of carving a constant theme throughout, and boasts a slasher whose gimmick is initially set up as being one that likes to carve up the victim’s faces, yet the entire face carving angle is all but abandoned after the first kill?

The Pumpkin Karver is the sort of movie that just made me want to throw up my hands in disgust. It’s not as wretchedly unwatchable as so many other worthless DTV slasher movies I’ve sat through – I’ve seen far worse; it’s just hard to watch this movie without feeling more than a little annoyed. Maybe it all makes sense to the people that made the movie, but I’m here to break the news to them that the third act of their little slasher flick is asinine to the point of showing utter contempt for the audience. The Pumpkin Karver suffers from the double whammy of often feeling made up as it went along and having a script that couldn’t seem to make up its mind where it wanted to go with the ultimate explanation behind the killings so it just decided to do both endings – and neither one makes much sense. Instead we get double the implausibility and twice the aggravation; never mind the fact that there isn’t nearly enough actual slashing leading up to this stupid climax.

It actually disappoints me that The Pumpkin Karver turned out the way it did because in the beginning I actually had some hope that this might be a good one. This particular movie slasher sports a really cool mask (a rotting pumpkin face) and the concept of a scary pumpkin-masked slasher on the prowl at Halloween with a thing for carving up victims’ faces held tremendous possibilities. The film even gets off to a pretty good start with a nice prologue that sets up the story to come. Here I was at the outset actually thinking this might be one that delivers. By the time the credits rolled 82 minutes later, I found myself sitting there wanting to flip the bird back at the screen in response to what I’d just witnessed. There’s just no excuse for a movie, even a mindless slasher movie, to have this much contempt for its audience.

Halloween night, Jonathan sits at the kitchen table carving a pumpkin while his older sister is paid a visit by her moron boyfriend. Seriously, this guy comes across more like the kind of IQ-deficient jerkwad that would have picked up Kelly Bundy for a date on “Married with Children”. When you think back to this opening scene with him later on, it becomes harder and harder to believe that his “evil” spirit could possibly be behind the killings to come.

The imbecile takes a few moments to annoy Jonathan, then leaves. Big sis then gets paid a visit by a pumpkin-masked, knife-wielding maniac, who attacks her. Jonathan rushes in and bludgeons the masked psycho to death with his carving knife only for it to be revealed to be her boyfriend. It was all just a Halloween prank gone wrong. Mortified, sis exclaims, “What have you done?” Mind you, she was saying that to her brother. Her boyfriend may not have intended to kill her but he certainly took things to such a degree – literally attacking her – nobody would argue against justifiable homicide at this point.

Okay, so far so good.

Pumpkin Karver reviewJump forward a year and we find Jonathan and sis living in a new town. I don’t know about you, but if my brother had once killed a person in a pumpkin mask with a pumpkin carving knife and now suffered from terrifying visions of a pumpkin masked specter trying to kill him, for some reason I just don’t think it would be a good idea to move to a town called Carver that specializes in growing pumpkins and carving Jack-o-Lanterns for Halloween. But maybe that’s just me.

It’s Halloween time again. Jonathan quickly catches the idea of a local cutie, which doesn’t sit too well with her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, who seems to think physically assaulting one’s ex is a good way to get back together with them. Boyfriends in this movie really don’t come across very well.

We’re also introduced to a variety of other young friends for Jonathan, and presumably for the killer to kill off. Many of them will get way too much screen time for people that never get killed or put in any real danger. From there, characters go to an outdoor Halloween concert, characters sit around playing party games, characters wander around and talk to one another, a creepy old pumpkin carving guy keeps showing up to rant and rave like a psychopath, Jonathan keeps having visions of the pumpkin-masked phantasm attacking him, and every once in a while the pumpkin-masked killer actually bothers to kill somebody.

There’s hardly any plot to this thing outside of “Hey, it’s Halloween, and there’s a killer on the loose that may be an evil spirit seeking revenge against that Jonathan guy.” It’s a perfect example of a movie that feels its running in place. It’s just not going anywhere. When it finally does go somewhere at the end, you don’t buy for a second where it went because it did such a poor job establishing the reasoning as to how it got there. There’s nothing especially bad about the overall production; it’s just a pointless film with an ending that insults your intelligence.

Also, as stated earlier, there’s not a whole lot of slashing in this slasher movie and the whole face carving gimmick is applied to the first and last victim but everyone in between goes out by traditional means, whether it be impalement or decapitation. Why bother dwelling on the whole carving aspect at all if the killer isn’t even going to bother adhering to their own M.O.? I will give the film credit for daring to kill of a character you don’t expect to die, but given the number of characters skulking about, this killer doesn’t do nearly enough killing. Jason would never let this many potential kills slip through his machete-gripping fingers.

So we’re left with a slasher movie with a barely there story based around a bunch of stock characters that seems to be more interested in killing time until the highly implausible finale than actually killing those characters, which last time I checked was supposed to be the whole point of a slasher movie.

And special recognition goes out to the most excessively creepy for the sake of being creepy character since Jeffrey Combs turn as the world’s most pointlessly creepy hotel manager in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. I’m speaking about that seemingly psychotic in how own right old pumpkin carver who spends every waking moment rambling on about the art of carving, evil spirits, and whatever else he feels like raving about in as menacing a manner as humanly possible. The way this character fits into the story, if it turns out he’s just a red herring, then what a pointless, over-the-top character he was, and if he turns out to be the killer, then what an amazing coincidence that this crazy old man suddenly decided to go homicidally crazy on this very night within the vicinity of someone the likes of Jonathan.

So who is the killer behind the rotting pumpkin face mask? Is it the spirit of sis’ dead boyfriend back for revenge? Is it scary old pumpkin carving man? Is it Jonathan himself? Is it someone else entirely? I won’t reveal the killer’s true nature other than to say its total bullshit. It’s all bullshit, plain and simple.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin


When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

 

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
2.0

Summary

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI


The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features
1.3

Summary

Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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